Why I love the ‘Star Trek’ streaming announcement

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 9.12.39 PMWill Star Trek do for CBS what House of Cards did for Netflix?

While I am curious to see what kind of Trek show eventually debuts on CBS in 2017, I’m more interested in seeing its impact on the network’s budding digital platform. Following this morning’s announcement that the new series was being developed for the streaming service, I tweeted that other networks should take notice. I’m sure they have, and local affiliates are taking notice too, because the day will come when all of the best network programming is only available through streaming.

Despite this whiny New York Post article’s claim that Trek is being relegated to a “second tier” platform, CBS knows exactly what it’s doing. This is just the next step in the company’s plan since launching All Access last year with a $5.99 per month subscription, which includes its own shows and content from local affiliates. The network is putting itself in a position in which it will no longer need the affiliates or cable companies to carry its programming. I’ve previously written that to combat this, affiliate companies need to keep developing their own original programming, or at least invest in digital media (Scripps acquiring podcaster Midroll is a great example of the latter).

That day may be far off into the future, but you can bet it’s on the mind of CEO Les Moonves, who hinted last year that the company was planning to produce digital-only programming. There’s even been talk of putting the NFL on All Access, which, pardon the expression, would be the ultimate game-changer. Star Trek is one thing, but you know how people go crazy for the football.

For now, Star Trek is the killer app that CBS hopes will get more people to sign up for All Access, just as House of Cards gave people a reason to subscribe to Netflix streaming (like the DVD business, the broadcast model isn’t what it used to be). Targeting the Trek audience is also a smart move; they are online, they are technophiles and early adopters, and they are dedicated to the franchise – they’ll pay the $6 to see a new series.

Even if you could care less about CBS programming, you have to salute the company for embracing the present – I’m not even going to say the future, digital is the now. All Access is not a second-tier platform, it’s the kind of service that every media company should have, especially the local affiliates, who risk someday losing out on quality programming that is streamed from someone else’s app.

Amazon hikes annual Prime fees to $99

The email arrived in my inbox at 5:12 a.m.: Upcoming Changes To Your Prime Membership.

I didn’t need to read any further, I already knew what was coming. After hinting at a price hike during a January earnings call, Amazon announced on Thursday it would raise its Prime membership fees from $79 to $99.

The new fee takes effect immediately for customers with renewal dates on or after April 17. Lucky for me I get to hold onto my extra $20 until next February.

The voices in my Twitterverse did not greet the news with smile-arrows, with some comparing it to the time Netflix raised its prices, announced Qwikster, and nearly destroyed itself.

It’s a little different. Amazon Prime is more about free shipping than streaming flicks and shows, so although a Prime membership will now cost a few bucks more than a year of Netflix streaming, you’re getting more for your money.

If you’re a consumer like me who buys everything but fresh food and clothing on Amazon, it’s still worth it.

If you don’t buy that much or if you’re using Amazon Prime just for streaming content, you can probably drop it. Also, why would you be using Amazon Prime for content?

A couple of years ago, I might have considered getting rid of Netflix and keeping Prime. The latter allows me to rent and buy movies online, while the former has the advantage in content selection. That gap in content is thinning, with the exception of Netflix’s original programming. Now that I’m fully addicted to shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, I can’t drop Netflix.

Nor can I drop Prime, because I’m too dependent on free shipping. So basically I’m just going to keep paying for everything forever.


CES audience gets first look at Roku TV

Set-top box designer Roku was set to unveil its new line of televisions at the International Consumer Electronics Show on Monday.

Here is a snippet from an Associated Press story posted to FOX5Vegas.com:

While similar to smart TVs on the market already, the company’s Internet streaming platform offers some 1,200 apps and more comprehensive niche content choices.

The Saratoga, Calif.-based streaming set-top box pioneer is partnering with two of the biggest Chinese TV makers in the world, TCL Corp. and Hisense International Co. Ltd. on six models.

The Roku TV will also provide users a way to access feeds from regular live TV providers and to connect to other devices such as Blu-ray disc players.

After years of competing with Apple TV and other set-top box companies, this is Roku taking on smart TV makers.

Their software and the number of apps (or channels, as Roku calls them) available bests anything on the market. I remember shopping for a smart TV a few years ago, and went with Roku because it gave me access to so much more content – everything from Netflix to local television news.

Roku’s move also gives them a leg up on Apple, which has yet to develop its own television set, despite years of stop-and-go rumors.

And, lastly, a Roku TV actually helps “cord cutters” lose another cord: the HDMI that connects its set-top box to the television.

Netflix, Marvel and the coming ‘Geekpocalypse’

To think, just a couple of years ago I was wondering if Netflix had peaked.

The company was in the midst of its Qwikster debacle, the stock was in tailspin, and I was counting the number of subscribers who quit the service because they didn’t want to pay double for DVD’s and streaming programming.

Now? All I can say is Welcome, Content Overlords.

Netflix and Marvel are making plans for four superhero series and a Defenders miniseries, all to stream in 2015.

I dubbed it a “Geekpocalypse” in an article on FOX5Vegas.com.

Not only will heroes like Daredevil and Luke Cage make their Netflix debuts in 2015, but the big screen calendar will be stacked with films like Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, Star Wars Episode VII, Jurassic World, Terminator 5 and Batman vs. Superman.

That’s almost too much for me to handle. If there’s a new Star Trek or Fast & Furious flick coming out that same summer, I will have to take a lot of time off.

As I mention in the article, Netflix has a serious reputation for quality when it comes to its original shows, having made leaps and bounds in just the past year.

Think about it. A year ago people had never heard of Orange is the New Black and House of Cards was still being discussed as a one-time gamble for a rejected cable show.

But those critics were quieted when the show debuted to rave reviews and started racking up award nominations.

Clearly, Marvel was impressed. Now they’ve embraced the Netflix model and will bring fans a new version of Daredevil, along with the live-action debuts of Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones.

And although they haven’t been given an official “Phase One” title like their cinematic brethren, this plan appears to be following the Avengers model.

So who knows what’s to come beyond 2015. It’s never too early to speculate.

Blockbuster to close stores, end movie-by-mail service

Netflix for the win.

Blockbuster, the once-dominant movie rental chain that coined the slogan, “Make it a Blockbuster night”, will end its retail and DVD delivery operation by January 2014.

The announcement Wednesday from parent DISH Network brought to a close the long, slow decline of a company that has struggled to compete in the age of streaming video.

Approximately 300 Blockbuster locations remain in the U.S., a far cry from the 9,000-plus the company once operated worldwide in its heyday.

DISH did not disclose how many employees would be affected by the closures. The company has been closing stores since taking control of Blockbuster in 2011.

In a statement, DISH said it would retain the rights to the Blockbuster brand and focus on its Blockbuster @Home movie channels and on-demand streaming service.

Founded in 1985 in Dallas, Blockbuster’s popularity rose as the VCR became a household fixture, and a mid-90s merger with Viacom established the company as the country’s premier rental chain.

For a time, it was so popular that it had its own awards ceremony, the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards.

Despite embracing DVD and later Blu-Ray, Blockbuster’s business model began to show cracks toward the end of the last decade, when movie watchers turned to DVD-by-mail service Netflix and its burgeoning online video service.

Blockbuster competitor Hollywood Video ceased operations in May 2010 when its parent company, Movie Gallery, filed for Chapter 7.

Blockbuster itself would file for Chapter 11 months later, citing massive debt and lost business due to up-and-coming streaming video companies.

While DISH Network has pledged to keep Blockbuster’s on-demand service intact, it is still available on far fewer devices than chief competitor Netflix.

Amazon to challenge Apple, Roku with set-top device

It’s been a big week for Amazon.

Just days after the Seattle-based e-tailer announced it would hire 70,000 seasonal workers for the holidays, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Amazon will challenge Apple, Roku and others with its own streaming set-top box.

If it’s true, the device could boost Amazon’s profile in the streaming video market and do for its Prime video library what Apple TV has done for iTunes.

Prime content – a rotating selection of movies and television shows – costs $79 per year. That’s cheaper than streaming giant Netflix, and Amazon customers get the added perk of free shipping.

Netflix remains the chief rival to Amazon Prime’s dominance in the streaming market, holding the advantage in total subscribers, acclaimed original programming and availability on streaming devices.

While both are available on everything from gaming consoles to iPods and iPads, Apple TV remains one of the lone holdouts for Amazon content.

By constructing its own streaming box, Amazon would be sending a shot across the bow of Apple, showing that it’s ready to challenge the company on every device in the home.

Amazon’s arrival in the marketplace could also put the squeeze on other set-top box companies, especially those who aren’t licensing their own content.

Roku, a set-top box developer based in Saratoga, California, retails its streaming video device for as low as $49 and boasts a library of apps (dubbed “channels”) from local news stations to premium cable companies.

The hockey puck-sized device is hip, for sure, but at the end of the day it serves the same function as a cable box.

With its recent investments in exclusive deals and original programming, Amazon aims to become a channel with its own box.